Friday, 16 November 2012

Speke Airport-Art Deco Architecture In Liverpool

Speke Airport, Liverpool.

Written by Wayne Colquhoun

Opened on the 1st July 1933 by The Marquis of Londonderry, K.G Secretary of State for Air.
There were 100,000 visitors on that day watching the display in which 246 aircraft took part.
There was a landing competition whereby the pilot who got nearest to the landing mark with propellers stopped won.
It was referred to as the greatest air pageant of all time.
A number of airlines were operating regular services after the successful opening. Blackpool and West CoastAir Services commenced operations in 1933.
The first scheduled flight was Liverpool to Blackpool and the cost was 18/- which is 90p in today’s money.

The traffic built up steadily and it was found to be necessary to expand the facilities to meet this.
It was 1937 that the present tower was completed, the same year that Hanger no 1 came into operation.
In 1939 the Terminal building was completed. Just in time for the war and at this period additional metal hangers were installed along with other less rigid structures.

A.J.Cobham with Sir J. Burnet designed the Terminal.

The simple functional style of this building is what now makes it so interesting, with its central observation tower and its convex flanks all designed for functional use.
The way the airside elevation curves gently shows what a little extra work can mean to overall kindness on the eye.

In 1936 the 611-west Lancs squadron had moved to Speke. Military activity now outstripped civilian use.
During the war it became an important destination with its close proximity to the strategically placed port of Liverpool.
Many aircraft were flown in, dismantled and shipped as far afield as the Middle East.
The 60s saw great images of the Beatles landing at Speke after conquering the world with their music.
From the time that the new terminal opened …the building was well past its best but with listed status and the active encouragement of many individuals, campaigning to have it restored, work finally got underway and it is now a hotel.
A major reconstruction took place.
Sadly the original windows had to go. It was altered slightly, as this new use was requiring a functional modern space for the comfort of the hotel guests.

The outside is magnificent with a replica plane outside the main public entrance, which helps to conjure up the spirit of its age.

Unfortunatly the interior is a sad pastiche and may as well be a modern hotel with an authentic exterior.
The decoration and fittings do not seem to conjure up any of its original style except to those who do not really understand the period and style known as Art Deco.
There has also been a very sad plastic looking building erected within the grounds.
This is a café or a diner of some sort and this has spoilt the overall look of the site.
There are some wonderful details on the main gateposts and the downspouts are reproduced to the original design with airplane motifs. The hangers now take on contemporary uses such as a gym.
Another of the hangers has been used for the performing arts. The whole area has now made a dramatic transformation and a business estate is thought to be growing along with the expansion of the Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
The best views are taken from the back of the building, as it is right to assume that the main entrance was originally made with an entrance from the airside. It is easy to lose yourself just standing there. Imagining a long journey on a De-Haviland plane in the late 30s, then picking up you’re your leather luggage and heading off to the terminal for passport checks.
There are some of the best sunsets from the Mersey Estuary and it is the best time with the changing light to sit and think about all those glamorous 30s planes that would have taxi-ed down the runway is dusk.

©Copyright Wayne Colquhoun 2012

Friday, 9 November 2012

Julia Carter Preston Sgraffito Plate-Piece of the Week

Her Wheel Keeps On Turning.

I haven’t used it yet and it’s a bit old fashioned and cumbersome and I am used to using a Shimpo wheel but I will get around to setting it up and throwing pots on the wheel that Julia Carter Preston actually used.
It is nice to interact with her history by either owning some of Julia's work or as in my case using the actual tools that she used to create her sgraffito ware that she was famous for. Though she never exhibited at the V&A she was well known to the insular Liverpool crowd of art collectors.

Entering into her studio shortly after her sad death and taking out objects that were personally used by her has given me a detailed insight into her techniques and how she fired her pieces.
I actually don’t think I will try and emulate her works they are a little too feminine for my style but it is interesting relating backwards by seeing the glazes and oxides she used. I tend to want to create more classical shapes of which the job is still very much a work in progress but is coming along slowly but surely.

This groupment of objects left, just as she used them, gives you a real insight into how she arrived at her finished article, a little like looking at an equation for a mathematical answer. What good is the answer if you don’t know how it is arrived at?

Of course most of her clients who bought her work will have no concern about her use of lustre’s in any other way as a description but an inquisitive mind is always needed if you are to progress in any journey that involves building up a skill.

I only came across her occasionally at various openings and events and every time she extended an invitation to call in for tea and I never did, although I extended an invitation to Peter Elson who jumped in like a long lost friend and did an article about her treasure trove of artefact's antiques and mementos of a life in Liverpool  It is a shame he never took up the campaign to save Julia's Uncles The Herbert Tyson Smith studio in the Bluecoat when it was under threat. see previous post

With a reputation of the daughter of a father who was a rather good sculptor and medallist.
The Edward Carter Preston name can be seen in cartouche on the Bronze plaque, the death plaque from the First World War, that he designed, that was given to next of kin as a memory of the part played by so many brave soldiers who lost their lives in the name of  Britain and the cause of Freedom
We have yet to see a full exhibition of his work other than small accumulations on occasional show, but when we do we will be able to understand him more and know how his daughter had to grow up in an environment of creativity in a more gentler age.
She didn’t really need the money and she didn’t charge a lot but her reputation was slightly diminished by allowing herself to be pushed into an exhibition of work that was previously rejected.
Her gallery took the short-term commission and have irrevocably damaged her reputation in exhibiting later work that was inferior.
 It may have been her elderly status and the need to create that kept her going. But it seems the gallery pushed her to into selling seconds after her prices raced up after a mention by one of the pumpkins on the Antique Road show, who said she was one for the future.

I stood while a queue formed at a Private View at the Bluecoat Display Centre and there was actually a scrum to get in and the rush of red labels that were stuck to her work surprised me especially as they were some warped and badly decorated pieces flying off the shelves.
I stood with Julia while a woman ran around with a tile in her hand shouting, “I have got a rabbit, I have got a rabbit”

Julia turned to me and said “Stupid woman that is a Hare….it just shows you how much she knows”

That summed that particular exhibition up for me.

The undeserving who didn’t know what they were looking at were now her principal patrons of her work taking it out of the range of those people who actually enjoyed her for her skillful but laid back approach of which she leaves us a legacy of a body of work that will if exhibited correctly by the now trustees of her collection Hope University in Liverpool.

A lot of he work was to commission. For those who own a piece of her work, treasure it, she really did make it for you with a lot of skill and care that will see he name grow in the eyes of collectors both here in Liverpool and much further afield.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Art Deco Architecture In Liverpool-Littlewoods Building Edge Lane

The Littlewoods Pools Headquarters

Edge Hill, Liverpool

A fine example of Art Deco architecture and important in Liverpool’s history both to its commercial, and wartime efforts.

The building sits on a plateau on one of the highest points in Liverpool. Edge Hill.
It is not far from the city centre.

It is almost cathedralesque with its central clock tower flanked by two wings.
There is a glass roof to let in the daylight this combined with the full size windows must have been a pleasure to work in, especially in comparison to working conditions elsewhere at the time it was built. It still is today.
Its simple form and clean lines give it that ocean liner style which was so wonderfully fresh and new at the time of construction. This was as cool as you could get.
Its new and fresh style must have been commissioned to be symbolic of the company’s intentions. John Moore’s himself along with his brother Cecil will have given the go ahead to build.
The views of this glowing white art deco building striding Edge Hill are best taken from Botanic Park where its boldness can be appreciated. Because of the park restraining other development, it has held its character intact and not changed since construction.

How lucky to watch the sun swing around the pure white and simple lines against the green and plush parkland. Is this Liverpool or Miami?

It does not have the polychrome decoration like The Hoover building.

Its beauty is in its simplicity and clean lines and it’s setting.
It was commisioned by the wealthiest individual in the United Kingdom, who he started his business selling shoelaces in Dale St before forming his pools’ empire. He never abandoned the city of Liverpool and lived on the outskirts until his death.

This building is mentioned in Pevsners South Lancashire volume on pg. 220. Pevsner refers to Wavertree Park off Edge Lane, very large symmetrical building of Littlewoods.
All square but still classically committed.

Pevsner did not refer to that many, what we now call Art Deco buildings

This really is a truly a wonderful building and he had the foresight to see its beauty a long time before it was fashionable.

It is now rotting and in a perilous state after several failed attempts to restore it.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Herbert Tyson Smith Bronze-Piece of the Week

 I bought this bronze by Herbert Tyson Smith in an auction hundreds of miles away.
The Internet now dictates there is nothing local anymore.

But this really is a local artefact, and I had to have it, and paid a bit for it, but I must bring it home I thought..

It is a study of a Merman. Images of Mermen are all around this locality around Water Street and the town centre.

There is n almost identical depiction on the façade of Martins Bank Building across the road from my shop.
 It is signed in the bronze and sits on an exotic marble base.
It seems to my mind to be a limited casting; I would be surprised if there was more than one made. Herbert Tyson Smith had been very productive in the inter war years.

He was the man who created the bronze castings on the Cenotaph on the space directly in front of the entrance to St Georges Hall along with architect Lionel Buddon.

Look up at most stone carvings from that interwar period and there is a chance that they were done in his workshop.

There was a little bit of research to do but I can take my time I thought but shortly after me picking it up Terry McDonald a local sculptor who seems to have been around forever, dropped in the shop.

Of course he used to work for Tyson Smith so I showed him an image of the bronze.

” Oh yes I remember that....... I broke the full sized plaster model of that same piece up, after the war, It was going to be a fountain, there was no money around for it”

“Are you sure it’s the same one”

“Positive I was only a young bloke then but I remember it as if it was yesterday” he replied
pic; by Wayne Colquhoun; Terry McDonald at his workshop

I went around to Terry’s place and there you go, original pieces by Herbert Tyson Smith with the same themes and much more. His workshop was fascinating. 
Here he is pictured with a model for the huge bronze that he was commissioned for that was erected outside Liverpool Womens Hospital. 

pic; relief by Tyson Smith in Terry's workshop

I had been a member of the Liver Sketching Club at one time and I spent numerous Saturday mornings sitting by an easel drawing from life while Terry held court strutting around the circle of budding artists giving advice in a parental manner.

It was a bit too much for me and I refused his help but remembered the experience of the Saturdays spent in Seal Street with a group of older blokes who were dedicated to thier art.
Tyson Smith had his workshops at the Bluecoat and I made an application to have a separate listing within the English Heritage listing of his studio at the Bluecoat in School Lane.

Those English Heritics saw it a more fitting proposition to knock it down.

What a tourist attraction this would now make but instead  it is now a shop selling cheap Chinese imports that do nothing to evoke the history of that area.

He sculpted reliefs for "The Crown" a hotel and public house on the East Lancashire Road  that in an act o vadalism was knocked down last year by a bunch of morons and this was allowed by an even larger group of clowns the City Council.

He also did work out of the city this is a monument he erected in Accrington.
Son of a lithographic printer and engraver, Herbert Tyson Smith was Liverpool born and educated at Liverpool University.

He enrolled in evening classes at the college of art where he studies clay modelling, plaster casting and stone carving.

He also studies drawing under Augustus John at the "Art Sheds" and University School of Art where he met Charles Allen, head of sculpture.

He joined the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of war in 1914 and was stationed at Dymchurch, Kent.

Honorary degree at the University of Liverpool. 1948 (George) Herbert Tyson Smith, MA.

Honorary instructor in Craftsmanship at Liverpool University School of Architecture.

He exhibited at Walker Art Gallery and the Sandon Studios where he was a member of the Sandon Studios Society.
pic courtesy of Chambre Hardman archive Liverpool